Popcorners Go Underground for Speakeasy Fun


Speakeasy Commercial


In Orlando Wood’s books Lemon and Look out, he details creative elements in advertising which he proves are associated with increased long-term effectiveness. These elements, like melodic music or a strong narrative, work because they attract the “broad-beam” attention of the right side of the brain. This means they catch the attention of people who may not currently be in the buying window for your brand, but who come away from the ad with increased awareness and positive associations for it.

One of these potent, effective creative elements is a strong sense of place and time. Ads with a historical setting grab right-brained attention because they stand out as incongruous and interesting in the context of other modern-day ads. This kind of ad is rare, though we do see some examples, like Oreo’s Super Bowl campaign this year featuring the Trojan Horse, or Bud Light’s medieval king from a few years back.

Popcorners are the latest brand to stand out by using a historical setting and having some fun with it. They’ve chosen to wind the clock back 100 years, to the prohibition era of the roaring 1920s, with an ad set in a Harlem speakeasy. Jazz musicians and flapper dames circulate, passing around the delicious Popcorner snacks, before the speakeasy host, played by Don Cheadle, gets a surprise as one guest shows up expecting a “sleep-easy”.

It’s a silly, slightly surreal, and ultimately joyful ad, created by Frito-Lay’s in-house agency D3 with a lot of input from star Cheadle. This isn’t the first time Popcorners have leaned into a cultural reference – they showed up at the 2023 Super Bowl with an ad riffing on Breaking Bad. It’s an imaginative approach that’s helping the 2010-launched snack brand stand out as a relative newcomer in a crowded category.

The ad landed a good 3.9-Star Rating, a performance well over the category average for snacks. But it really shone on short term Spike rating, with an Exceptional score reflecting how well viewers reacted to the inventive new ad.

Unifying Popcorners recent ads has been the idea of the “good” snack – more healthy than potato chips – turning up in “bad” situations, like Breaking Bad or a prohibition speakeasy. That concept gives them a flexible platform to showcase plenty more historical eras or cultural references, if those are the routes Popcorners want to go down in future ads. It’s certainly something for the brand to consider – it’s a highly effective tool and not one that competitors are using much.

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